Does Biking Help Running?

Triathlete Linsey Corbin explains why runners can benefit from this type of cross-training and how to start.


If you want to become a stronger runner, adding cross-training days to your schedule can support your effort. Doing activities that kick up your cardio while challenging your body in new ways means you not only become a more well-rounded athlete, but you also give your mind a break from the repetitive action of running.

One great cross-training option: cycling. With one ride, you can reap all the same aerobic benefits of running and strengthen your legs for the road. Plus, pushing the pedals on the bike helps you log workouts without pounding the pavement, which can take some pressure off your joints.

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Here, former professional triathlete and Ironman World Champion, Linsey Corbin shares how biking can help running, and shares her top tips for getting started so you can set yourself up for success.

What are the benefits of biking?
Linsey Corbin: Cycling is a great way to cross-train, whether you are healthy or working through an injury. Cycling is non-impact but has several aerobic benefits. You can do several workouts on the bike like riding uphill in a big gear to build strength. Another option is doing short sprints out of the saddle to spike your heart rate and build speed. Lastly, you can also go for a longer, steady ride to build endurance.

The biggest difference between cycling and running is there is less impact with cycling, so you can recover quicker from the sessions.

How does biking help running?
LC: Cycling can benefit runners for both recovery and training. It aids in recovery by flushing the legs out and getting blood to flow through the muscles. You also can maintain a ton of fitness while riding if you are injured.

Cycling can be great for building high-end aerobic training doing intervals. Sprint intervals spike your heart rate to max levels and enforce a quick turnover of the legs as well.

Once a week, I do a very challenging workout that involves all-out sprinting for short intervals. It starts with a short warm-up. Then I do 10 reps of one-minute all-out, best effort sprinting, as hard as you can go, with a two-minute recovery of super easy riding. After, I cool down for 10 to 15 minutes. Sometimes I will do them indoors on a trainer so all I have to concentrate on is going all-out and I can crank some motivating music.

How can you start biking as a runner?
LC: The best way to get started in cycling would be either to take a local indoor cycling class at the gym to see if you like it or to head to a local bike shop and rent a bike for the day. There are all kinds of biking: mountain biking, road biking, or even hopping on a cruiser and heading to the farmers market.

What are the different types of bikes?
LC: A road bike is one of the more traditional bikes. It is lightweight, has shifters, and is great for climbing, riding in the flats, going fast or slow. These bikes are meant to be used on paved roads.

A tri-bike is a specific bike used for triathlons and has a different handlebar set-up, which allows the rider to get more aerodynamic, for speed and comfort. However, you can do a triathlon on any type of bike.

A hybrid bike is fit more for comfort and is great for riding around town. Hybrid bikes tend to be a bit heavier and don’t have all the speedy benefits of a road bike.

There are also mountain bikes that are meant for riding on dirt trails, and cyclocross bikes meant for a variety of terrain and surfaces including dirt and pavement.

Should you get fitted for a bike?
LC: Yes, getting the help of a professional will make sure you are in the optimal position to be efficient and comfortable on the bike. Having the correct setup will help you avoid injuries and any aches and pains that can come with cycling.

What inspired you to start riding?
LC: I came from a running background and after several injuries, I was looking for a new way to maintain fitness in the summer of 2005. My parents were going on a bike tour and invited me to go along with them.

I fell in love right away. There was something about the freedom of going places on two wheels — using your muscles, heart, and lungs to climb a big mountain pass that you normally would drive in a car was a special feeling of freedom and empowerment for me.

What is your favourite type of bike ride?
LC: My favorite ride is a long day in the saddle that usually involves a big adventure. I love seeing places on two wheels that you normally wouldn’t go. My biggest passion is for climbing big mountains, checking out the changes in scenery, and descending fast as the reward for all of your hard work.

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